In the first meeting in city hall since four new members joined the Tallahassee City Commission, three of those officials voted to delay a move forward with a $60 million Public Safety Complex.
Despite some community concerns, the Public Safety Complex was on the fast track due to the votes of a city commission that was made up of four members that are no longer serving.
To date, the City was moving toward the development of a community-focused public safety campus that would serve as the headquarters for the Tallahassee Police Department.
On February 28, 2018, the City Commission authorized staff to issue an RFP for the acquisition of real estate for a public safety campus along the South Monroe Street and/or Orange Avenue corridors. Prospective bidders were invited to submit proposals for acquiring the necessary real estate including a timeline for land acquisition, procurement processes and public input.
The responses for potential sites were received on June 5, 2018, and the Commission approved funding for the land acquisition and relocation assistance for current tenants on October 17, 2018.
At this point no contracts have been signed, which means the final decision on where the complex will be located is still up for debate.
The vote to move forward with the selection of an architectural firm for the Public Safety Complex gave new commissioners a chance to weigh-in on a project that some believe has not been properly vetted.
After listening to citizen input that voiced concern’s about the project, City Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox began the discussion by saying, “I cannot sit here and just move without taking into consideration all the comments we heard here tonight.”
She added, “We still have work to do on the location.”
City Commissioner Curtis Richardson, who has supported the project from the beginning, said “there has been a lot of misinformation put out there.”
Richardson’s response to Commissioner Williams-Cox was pointed. “Let me tell you all this. This is not a class project for me…….Twenty-five years ago I moved to the southside…we raised our family on the southside… I’ve got skin in the game.”
Richardson added, “It’s been vetted, there is support for it.”
Mayor John Dailey endorsed Richardson’s comments by saying, “that was right on point and needed to be said.”
However, Commissioner Matlow – who was next to speak – challenged previous statements offered to support the vote.
“I want to be clear Mayor Gillum voted against this location…I want to make sure the record is clear on this specific issue,” said Matlow.
Mayor Dailey had previously indicated that Gillum supported the location of the project.
Second, he questioned Deputy City Manager Cynthia Barber’s statement that the proposed location was not part of a “weed and seed” area.
Matlow asked why is their weed and seed signage on South Meridian?
Barber responded by saying, “I don’t have an answer for that. I am not even aware it is there. But I do know we don’t have a weed and seed program.”
The Weed and Seed program is a community based strategy sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that aims to prevent, control, and reduce violent crime, drug abuse, and gang activity in designated high crime neighborhoods across the nation.
Critics argue the program creates a financial incentive for law enforcement to arrest individuals.
Matlow continued by saying, “I want to be absolutely clear. This commission hasn’t given any direction on this project yet at all…Frankly I am a little bit insulted that we are forced into this position.”
In the end, Matlow, Williams-Cox was joined by Dr. Bryant to delay the vote on moving forward. Rather, the three commissioners moved a successful motion to have two townhall meetings to not only address support for the project, but to seek input about where the project should be located and what it should look like.